One day, Simon Neil posed a challenge to his band mates: Biffy Clyro would write a double album. Neil conceived the trio’s sixth (and seventh) LPs as a response to the disposable nature of modern music. This was to be an album which would last more than a couple of weeks.
Differentiating the sides with titles lifted from Sounds Like Balloons lyrics, the concept of longevity is established: The Sand At The Core Of Our Bones (“it blows on, and on, and on, and on”) and The Land At The End Of Our Toes (“goes on, and on, and on, and on”). The cover art work was created by album art royalty, Storm Thorgerson (Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Muse, and Genesis, among others). Everything suggested that Biffy were throwing themselves into the major leagues.
The Sand At The Core Of Our Bones contains some pretty dark lyrics; from Different People to Opposites – “Baby, I’m leaving here / You need to be with someone else” – the motif of leaving and of unspecified trials and tribulations is unrelenting.
The band have had some serious problems since the release of their last studio album, Only Revolutions in 2009, and the near end of Biffy seems reflected by the pensive melancholia of these ten tracks. Whilst containing some lovely riffs, Simon’s exquisite pronunciation and interesting lyrics such as “do you want to touch my bulbous head” grace the first side, it is all a bit too similar. You feel it is a double LP for the sake of it, and not for any burning need.
While The Land At The End Of Our Toes has a bit more diversity, it is not a dichotomous opposition. There’s more varied percussion and it stays further away from the self-reflection of side one. It edges closer to the experimental sounds that wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect from a year of intense production, a six month delay on release and what we’d heard in pre-release interviews. It is not, however, an opposite. Spanish Radio stands out for the much needed variation it provides, in the form of a mariachi band and a touch of syncopation.
Experimentation has always been the life blood of Biffy Clyro, and it feels a bit as though the task of a double LP and 78 minutes was just a bit too overwhelming.
Had this not been a double album then perhaps it could have been something wonderful. But Opposites contains two sides of good, yet similar sounding alt-rock and guitar anthem tracks, and not, as Ben told the NME when the album was originally announced, “a diverse collection of songs”.